Ethics & Psychology

Psychology is indispensable as a discipline in addressing a host of ethical concerns: the reasons or motives of action, the sanity of a wrong-doer, the presence of the guilty mind (mens rea), the extent to which an agent acted on the basis of good reasons, and the contribution of psychology for addressing family matters, civic, public policy, inter-cultural relations, matters of gender, ethnicity, and more.  The discipline or practice of psychology can itself also be an interesting object of ethical inquiry: how might human subjects be used (with or without their consent)? How should nonhuman animals be used in the practice of psychology?

Moral psychology
is a place where a great deal of promising work has been done.  This involves the study the elements that go into describing, explaining, and evaluating morally relevant desires, motives, inclinations, intentions, both conscious and unconscious thoughts, reasoning, and more.  In moral psychology there is a deep relationship between psychological and ethical reflection.

Here is an interesting study by a secular psychologist who contends that the new atheists’ current picture of religious believers is off base:


By Jonathan Haidt [9.21.07]

Topic: MIND

It might seem obvious to you that contractual societies are good, modern, creative and free, whereas beehive societies reek of feudalism, fascism, and patriarchy. And, as a secular liberal I agree that contractual societies such as those of Western Europe offer the best hope for living peacefully together in our increasingly diverse modern nations (although it remains to be seen if Europe can solve its current diversity problems).

I just want to make one point, however, that should give contractualists pause: surveys have long shown that religious believers in the United States are happier, healthier, longer-lived, and more generous to charity and to each other than are secular people.

To read the full article, CLICK HERE

Here is a video from Jeffrey Schloss on evolutionary psychology and its relationship to religion: “Does Evolutionary Psychology Undermine Religion?”

The practice of psychology and psycho-analysis also raises interesting questions about professional boundaries and responsibility.  See, for example:
Here is an article about psychology, ethics, and the ways that they intersect in the world of business, featuring Nicholas Epsey: